I have relaxed into speaking Spanish since my last diary entry, and I put a lot of it down to bicycle touring. I would even go as far to say that bicycle touring is changing my life!
Traveling by bicycle through these vast landscapes means that we are not always in a town or around people. We have loads of time to ourselves while we roll and camp, and sometimes we may even go a couple of days without encountering anyone or speaking a word of Spanish. It is quite a contrast to other trips I’ve taken because we’re never in a rush. We don’t have a limit of two days per city and a list of museums and art galleries to plough through, so we end up being a lot more relaxed. We may not be interacting with people everyday, but I find myself much more calm and collected when we do.
The cycling itself is having a huge effect. I’m doing exercise for several hours a day without even realizing it. My body and brain are being pumped full of oxygen all day long, and when we turn in for the night I am sleeping long and well. It’s so different to a normal working day in the city, and I find my brain is functioning completely differently. I feel a lot more positive overall, and less agitated and nervous. Perhaps, I never fully recognized the amount of stress I carried around with me until it began to disappear.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
The fact that I am calmer is having a direct effect on my Spanish. I feel like I can stay focused longer, and, after two months on the road, I am really beginning to shake off my stage fright. I have become much more spontaneous, and I am enjoying chatting with locals. I now realize that I do have enough vocabulary and charm to keep a conversation rolling — which is super encouraging! It is still always a challenge, and I am still doing half my communicating with gestures and improvisation, but I’m not bothered at myself when I forget or don’t know a word. I let the conversation roll on and make a mental note to find out the meaning later. I make loads of mistakes all the time, but by making them, I often recognize them, and can begin to try and correct them.
When we spent a day with Aldo and his wife on their dairy farm, I was reminded how undemanding the locals are here in rural northwest Argentina. The high expectations to speak Spanish perfectly were coming from myself, not from them. So for our day on the farm I just let go. I felt very relaxed in the company of Aldo’s family, and spent most of the time laughing, not least when I failed at milking a cow. It felt healthy to laugh at myself, and I feel the same way about my Spanish; it’s important to be willing to make mistakes and get things wrong if you want to learn something new (I still need a few cow-milking lessons before I can say I have it down).
The more willing I am to make mistakes, the more opportunities I have to practice and play with my learning. I get encouragement from these different interactions, and that’s actually exciting and a bit of a revelation.
Yes, I can do it!